Strong Institutions in Weak Polities: State Building in Republican China, 1927-1940

Strong Institutions in Weak Polities: State Building in Republican China, 1927-1940

Strong Institutions in Weak Polities: State Building in Republican China, 1927-1940

Strong Institutions in Weak Polities: State Building in Republican China, 1927-1940

Synopsis

Strong Institutions in Weak Polities explores state building and its supporting processes of institution-building in Republican China, focusing particularly on efforts to create strong, proactive central administrative organizations under exceptionally difficult circumstances between 1927 and 1940. After considering Nationalist efforts to establish a national civil service and examination system, it details the institution-building strategies pursued by three different central state organizations: the Sino-Foreign Salt Inspectorate, the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Dr Strauss suggests that, far from being the morass of corruption and useless activity sometimes portrayed, all three of these organizations provided core services to the wider state building project, all were surprisingly successful and perceived to be of high status during their own time, and all pursued largely similar strategies of institution-building involving some combination of organizational insulation, bureaucratization around impersonal norms, and outwardly oriented goal achievement. This book will be of interest to all those involved in modern Chinese studies, comparative history, and politics, as well as to anyone interested in the nexus between state building and organization theory.

Excerpt

In the 450 years between the dawn of the Age of Exploration and the decolonization waves of the mid-twentieth century, the European state system developed, consolidated, and expanded to encompass the rest of the globe, with momentous consequences for the non-European world. Between the sixteenth and twentieth centuries, the surviving members of the European state system achieved something remarkable: the global transformation of the political and economic landscape through the indirect influence of trade, the threatened use of force, and outright conquest. By the late nineteenth century, the rest of the world had been drawn into an international system of states and an international economy, defined by Europeans and largely dominated by them as well. Through the extraordinary and destructive dynamism of a small group of states in north-west Europe, Western ideas of state sovereignty became dominant in the international system, areas not under the direct or indirect control of European and Europe-derived powers decreased, and places not subject to the opportunities and vagaries of the world market largely disappeared.

The impact of these revolutionary developments on the non-European world was overwhelming, and the age of European dominance irrevocably altered non-Western states and societies in myriad ways. Europeans created new states and new administrations everywhere they went. In the sparsely settled Americas, they exterminated or enslaved indigenous peoples, physically taking over and creating European-derived states. In the more populated parts of Africa and Asia, where such strategies were unfeasible, Europeans set up colonial administrations. Even in those areas that escaped formal colonial rule, such as Ottoman Turkey, Japan, and China, the impact of European expansion had a strong echo effect: indigenous elites and rulers saw their neighbours succumb to Western power, keenly felt the West's economic and military pressure, and struggled hard to maintain their independence, typically by playing one European power against the other while attempting to strengthen their local administrative capacities. By the turn of the twentieth century, the world was covered with states that were either originally European, imposed artificially by Europeans, or attempting to replicate the Europeans' success. In both absolute and comparative terms, state building and its supporting processes of institution building have had a lasting impact on the global political landscape.

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